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Ryanair pilot urges carrier to engage in collective talks

Ryanair captain Imelda Comer has offered to serve as "a conduit to enable constructive engagement" between management and pilots.

In a letter sent to the airline's chief Michael O'Leary and publicised by the European Cockpit Association, Comer stresses that the European employee representative committee (EERC) seeking dialogue with management is "exclusively made up of Ryanair pilots from several countries".

She adds: "The interim EERC represents the views of the collective pilot body, which wishes to proactively and constructively engage with the company to help resolve the current difficulties that continue to weigh on all of us."

Pilot representatives are, states Comer, "concerned about their security when they reveal their identities", but will do so once Ryanair has given them a series of specified assurances. These include promises that there will be no legal action, no scheduling of additional line or simulator checks, third-party handling of any disciplinary action, no change of base unless requested by the pilot, a minimum number of rostered hours, paid time off to engage in representative activities, and no unpaid leave except at request – all of these applicable until a year after representative duties are discharged.

The interim EERC, which intends to "provide a channel through which the whole pilot body can speak with one voice", has presented the company with a list of demands. Reiterated by Comer, this is topped by permanent local contracts and also includes co-ordination between national and regional pilot teams, benchmarking with regional competitor airlines "to stem the exit of pilots", and permission for pilots to have "their own professional assistance" in negotiations.

If they secure the changes they are seeking, pilots would be prepared to "surrender some of their leave to help resolve the current problems", Comer indicates.

She notes Ryanair's policy of "only negotiating with pilots and only dealing with individual bases", and warns that this "will not resolve the deep-seated issues that have been imposed on pilots over the last 10 years and have cumulatively given rise to our most recent difficulties".

Flightcrew, she complains, lack the "time to properly prepare for or carry out an additional task that you [Ryanair] insist only pilots must fulfil", adding that "the complexity of pilots living, operating and moving around Europe exposes us to legal, financial, income tax and social insurance considerations that we do not have expertise in".

Accusing the airline of having "so far missed the point of what pilots require", Comer argues that "properly informed negotiations need to take place".

In a separate letter to colleagues, in which she urges them to support the EERC, Comer states that she has been with Ryanair more than 10 years and has "not seen anything like the level of pilot anger, frustration and disappointment arising from the way the company management has treated us in the recent past".

She argues: "Company management got us into this mess. They cannot solve these problems without us. To move our own representation in a new direction, we have to stop the company's usual rush to divide and conquer us."

Comer also reveals that she is "leaving Ryanair in the near future", adding: "I am sure the company will try to make a big issue out of that."

Ryanair describes the "letter from the so-called EERC" as "entirely disingenuous", adding that it "will not be corresponding with, or replying to, the false claims made" by the EERC, Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG), Ryanair Pilots Association (REPA) or "any other front set up by competitor pilot unions".

The airline states: "If Ryanair pilots wish to negotiate pay increases of up to €22,000 [$26,000] per annum or anything else with the airline, they are free to do so at all times through the existing base ERC structures, which have been validated by the Supreme Court of Ireland and have operated successfully for over 25 years without any invented claims about pilot 'security'."

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